Thursday, March 26, 2009


I was not one of those spoiled kids who received a BMW on their 16th birthday. Even if my parents could have afforded it, they wouldn't have based on principle--You must earn the finer things in life. The car gifted to me on my sweet 16 was a Malibu Classic circa 1970's Grandma. Complete with powder blue paint. It wasn't sexy but it was sturdy, practical, dependable, and nearly indestructible. At the time I didn't care if it was stylish, it was all mine. A powder blue ticket to freedom. That car reminds me of my first pony, Sally. Minus the dependable part.

I don't know why Shetlands are routinely given to children. They are generally unpleasant little equids whose clever minds readily contemplate treachery. It doesn't help that they are often "trained" by children. This sets them up nicely to loathe small human beings. In my parents defense, they knew next to nothing about horses. After nagging them incessantly for a horse, they produced Sally, a small brown Shetland of unknown origins. My first tack ensemble consisted of a ratty bareback pad and those all-in-one pony bridle combinations complete with nickle plated curb bit. Armed with a few lessons, years of horse stories, and blind passion, I set out to make Sally my very own Black Stallion. Okay, even I knew she was no The Black but we could do Misty of Chincoteague.

For her part Sally remained oblivious, even immune, to my love and crude training methods. She had better things to do then fulfill childish fantasies. Avoiding my attempts to ride her was an art form. She might buck, bite, rear, or, my favorite, bolt into the nearest stand of trees. One moment she would be walking along calmly, the next I'd be hanging on for dear life while she tried to scrape me off on low hanging branches.

I hadn't owned Sally long when my city slicker cousin, Holly, came to visit. Of course she wanted to ride Sally. I'm not sure what was behind my adamant selfishness that day. Perhaps I felt overprotective of my Prize, perhaps it was the weather, perhaps I was simply too lazy to move from the front of the television and wrangle a cantankerous pony who wanted nothing to do with me. It didn't help that we had recently purchased a satellite dish (the Beam-Me-To-Mars variety from the 80's). Two words: Unlimited Cartoons. Whatever the reason, I told Holly emphatically, "no." She responded as childish relatives do; she asked my dad.

"Your dad said I could ride Sally." Holly marched herself into my face, smugly considering her victory. "Where's her stuff?"

I hesitated, smoldering in silence on the couch. How dare she! Then a delicious, wicked idea hatched in my brain.

"It's in the barn. But you don't need the bridle," I offered sweetly, "it will be easier to just ride her with the halter and lead rope."

Holly sauntered out the door, an innocent marching unwittingly to her doom. Suddenly uninterested in the television, I slouched deeper into the cushions on the couch. Forget a satellite dish, the show about to commence outside was much more entertaining.

When Holly returned from her "ride" she sported angry scratches down her arms and twigs poked out of her hair. I feigned shock and let her rant about my disobedient pony. Years later I confessed what I had done and begged Holly for forgiveness. We both had a good laugh.

Besides being nearly indestructible, a pony like Sally is good for gauging commitment. When I proved that nothing could extinguish my passion for all things equine I was rewarded with a beautiful bay Arabian named Sunfire. Besides standing in nicely as my own Black Stallion, Sunny actually liked me. This was a new concept. Though we had our share of challenges, our friendship birthed a lifelong commitment to this wonderful breed. I had moved up as a horseman. Kinda like trading that Malibu Classic, later on, for a 1968 Mustang. Sweet.

While perusing YouTube recently, I came across this short video clip. Yes, I laughed out loud and punched replay. Repeatedly. Here's to you Sally, may you rest in peace. I am afraid I don't miss you.

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